When you're passionate about something, whether it's a style of music, a way of dressing, or a type of skiing, you love knowing all about those characters who made history within that world. You want to investigate endlessly and discover everything you didn't know about your references. Well, that is precisely what we are going to do in today's article! Whether you already knew his name or you think there's nowhere to take it, Shane McConkey is considered one of the most emblematic, wild and controversial freeriders in off-piste, one of the types of skiing that we love so much. So sit back and enjoy reading about everything you didn't know about this skier.
1. WHERE AND WHEN WAS SHANE MCCONKEY BORN?
Shane McConkey was born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1969. His father, Jim McConkey, was one of the first extreme skiers of the 1960s. His mother Glenn, on the other hand, also belonged to the world of white sports, but in alpine ski teaching. This couple divorced when Shane was just three years old, and he and his mother moved to Squaw Valley, California.
2. MCCONKEY'S FIRST STEPS IN THE WORLD OF SKI
One of the phrases most remembered by those who surrounded McConkey in his childhood was what he said when he had just put on his first skis: “I don't read books, I ski”. He said it proudly. He said it with real passion. (But hey, don't go thinking that reading and skiing can't be combined either). It was after he moved with his mother to California, specifically to Squaw Valley, that he began to try backcountry with his company. Also, whenever she visited Canada to be with her father, she also skied with him at the Whistler resort.
he It was in Vermont that she began attending a ski school called Burke Mountain Academy. He learned a lot, both in technique and discipline, but even then it was clear that McConkey would be a skier who would break out of the box. His wild and adventurous spirit encouraged him to take his skis to the extreme, and this would undoubtedly mark his entire career, not only as a skier, but also as a person.
3. HOW MANY COMPETITIONS DID SHANE MCCONKEY ENTER?
We could say that Shane McConkey was never a typical skier, and that more than ski slopes, he liked off-piste. The mountains he skied the most were the Canadian ones that saw him grow up, but in 1993, when he was 24, he entered his first competition on the Pro Mogul Tour, a parallel hump freestyle race that featured two zones of jump, in Heavenly Valley, in California. A year later, he won the South American freeski championship and came second on the WESC (World Extreme Ski Championships) podium. He lived in Vail, Colorado for a while, but ended up moving back to Squaw Valley. A year later, in 1995, he won the national freeski championship, and in 1996 he founded IFSA (International Association of Free Skiers). His main intention with the creation of this group was for it to become a freeski association led by the athletes themselves.
As an article in Skiing Heritage magazine stated in 2010: “Shane McConkey is considered the most influential skier of his generation for popularizing freeskiing and encouraging the improvement of the equipment used for it, developing some very specific advances so that many more skiers could enjoy off-piste even more if possible”. This undoubtedly sums up McConkey's journey as a skier, making it clear that he was not the "typical" one who accumulated medals and trophies in his palmares, but rather that he was looking for something more and that he skied with the intention of leaving his mark.
4. WHY IS SHANE MCCONKEY SO FAMOUS?
Any fan of off-piste and white sports you ask can tell you that Shane McConkey is one of his go-tos. But really, what makes him an emblematic character in the freeride world? And basically: why is Shane McConkey so famous? The reality is that, despite the fact that the origin of freeride goes back a long way, this modality had lost fame and prominence because others, such as alpine skiing, had been reinforced. Back then, freeskiing was a group of disciplines including big mountain, halfpipe, big air, skicross and slopestyle. He dared with everything, and that is why what some call “being at the right time, in the right place” happened. In addition, this Canadian drew attention for his lack of filters. His naturalness was such that he was kicked out of a station for his indecency... imagine!
From the moment his name begins to gain some recognition in the ski resorts, little by little Shane is making a name for himself in the audiovisual industry. He came to participate in numerous videos and films in which he acted as a stunt doubler sliding on his skis.
5. SHANE MCCONKEY INVENTED SOME SPECIAL SKIS
But if McConkey was famous it is not only for his famous personality and his self-confidence on skis, but also because he changed the world of freeride as it was known until then, developing a technology that, even though it was “obvious” to the naked eye ”, nobody had come to raise it.
Until then, the skis had only been modified in their lateral shape, but the longitudinal curvature had never been touched. What McConkey considered was, simply, what it would be like to ski with water skis, and to verify it, he mounted some bindings on said skis and could see how, especially in very deep powder snow, the glide was impeccable. In the photo that we show you at this point in the article, Shane himself appears with said skis.And with this idea he reached his main sponsor and told him about his discovery. Some time later they launched the first skis with reverse camber: the bridge or arch that the ski normally leaves this time would be in the shape of a "U". In this way, the contact area of the base with the snow is reduced, and it provides greater manageability. Without a doubt, this was a complete revolution for the world of powder, and in numerous interviews the skier is clearly proud of having contributed something that goes further.
6. HOW DID YOU GO FROM FREERIDE TO BASE JUMPING?
The addition of base jumping to the life of freerider Shane McConckey was most progressive. His pioneering and daring attitude led him to be one of the first to use skis in this modality. One of his best-known jumps was the one he did in 2004 at Eiger, starting with a double frontflip. This not only stopped there, but also led him to be nominated in the alternative sports category at the Laureus World Sports Awards the following year. In fact, it incorporated an important element into base jumping: the wingsuit. This would allow him to ski down mountains and then launch himself off a cliff, causing his suit's system to activate, the skis to come off, and glide down.Adrenaline in the purest McConkey style! In the videos that we have included in the following points you can see exactly what this mix between extreme skiing and base jumping consisted of.
7. THE REASON FOR HIS NICKMARK: “SAUCER BOY”
Saucer boy is defined by many as the drunken alter ego of Shane McConkey. It is about a fictional character that McConkey himself represented, with a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand and a most eccentric speech. Despite the fact that he was well known as a professional skier and his fame reached any point on the planet, he showed his bewilderment at feeling at the top doing what was his passion: skiing. That is the reason why he always ended up ridiculing his profession with the most absurd humor, while intelligent. I mean, who was capable of doing something like that? Carrying out the research for this article, we found this video that perfectly shows the personality of "Saucer boy" and the legacy he left behind.
8. SHANE MCCONKEY AND HIS JUMPING WITHOUT CLOTHES
As you hear it: Shane McConkey liked to ski without clothes on and would treat viewers to some highly desirable images. Really, his goal with this was none other than to put freeride on the lips of as many people as possible, creating a controversy that didn't seem to affect him in any way. Many have been the skiers who have wanted to imitate this symbol, and without a doubt it makes McConkey be remembered, in addition to his talent and daring, for his carefree and fun attitude.
9. HOW DID SHANE MCCONKEY DIED?
Of all the things Shane McConkey will always be remembered for, perhaps the most famous is his death. March 26, 2009 was a day of recording that was going to be like so many others, in which McConkey would jump from a cliff 800 meters high with the device that he himself had invented, in such a way that he skied and then when he jumped into a vacuum, his skis would come off and his suit would allow him to glide. However, this device was never activated and only one of the skis came off; the whole world regretted for a moment McConkey's desire to live life and take it to the extreme. What all his fans now agree on is that he died doing what he was most passionate about in the world, and that is something that will undoubtedly always stand out from him.
10. HERO BY NATURE: THE SHANE MCCONKEY DOCUMENTARY
Throughout this article we have emphasized McConkey's more television facet, appearing in one of the James Bond films in which he doubled as the main actor for the shots in which he skied. The big producers echoed this and were aware that people went to the movies to see this great skier. For this reason, McConkey's Red Bull team proposed the creation of a documentary about his life that was momentarily interrupted by his tragic death, but which was immediately adapted to the events and ended up being released. Heroes by nature, the title given to the audiovisual piece, is part of the legacy left to humanity.